FRONTIERS IN BLOCKCHAIN: first peer-reviewed journal dedicated to #blockchain from a mainstream scientific publisher https://blog.frontiersin.org/2018/04/19/blockchain-journal-olinga-taeed-christopher-clack/ – collaboration between @theCCEG and @FrontBlockchain – the #leading open-access scholarly academic research #community. Founding Chief Editor Professor Olinga Taeed, Director of CCEG and set to become the #world’s first Professor in Blockchain at Birmingham City #University https://loop.frontiersin.org/people/540552/overview #goodistrending
Professor Olinga Ta’eed PhD FIoD
1. Description of a Blockchain World
There is only one thing that the world has in common outside the essentials of food, water, air and heat. We do not agree on values, what is love, or music. Even our attitude towards spirituality, religion, has historically been both unifying and divisive. It is our intangible values that sometimes escalate to wars and killing our fellow man. Sadly, however, tangible assets including money is the only things that is used universally, accepted, and agreed whether in New York or Shanghai, in the middle of the Gobi desert or dealing with your neighbour. We all understand the value of assets, benchmark ourselves and other things with it, and have a sophisticated ways to trade on items based on financial value whether through bartering or using tokens of currency.
When remodelling our interactions and visioning the new world order, why not start with something we can all agree on, and build up from there?
I can see the rolling of eyes and shaking of heads; a new vision of the world built on the worst possible instrument of materiality and lowest common denominator of mankind? The very thing that is blamed daily for the ruin of the world. Money. Representing greed, hedonism, selfish and self-centric behaviours that are universally considered vile and demonised in the press. Hardly in line with what society needs to promote — love, happiness, kindness and transparency. The idea of money to unify the world seems ridiculous and out of step with the positive direction we are heading. But what if money, the universally accepted mediator across mankind, can be injected with values that can be exchanged just as easily as currency? A world where hard tangible financial value and soft non-financial value are interchanged seamlessly and a world build capturing all values inherent within society wherever it may lie or extreme it may be. A circular economy trading value built on our values.
So how can money be injected with values? It already does. Would you accept US$ 5,000 for your shirt if it’s paid in KKK Coins? It may offend your values, or you simply think that since you do not associate with the Klu Klux Klan, where could you spend the currency? Currency carries both a financial value and represents values attributed towards a community, a set of beliefs, or alignment of values. Perhaps you can spend it with those who share similar values, who possess Trump Coins. What it does is to create a circular economy based on total value, both financial and non-financial value, and the exchange rate or desirability will be dependent on the demand that a vibrant, transactional and cohesive community creates. Fair or not, abhorrent or not, giving voice to those whose values are repulsive to the rest, a new system of currency that encapsulated all our values is equitable and transparent. We will fight in the exchanges, not in the streets, and we give value to all mankind not artificially censor those who we prefer to supress however unpalatable this may seem. It is democracy built on a common fiscal platform following thousands of years of maturation.
The solution is at the centre of the burgeoning 4th Industrial Revolution where Fintech meets Socialtech. The technology is called ‘Blockchain’ and touted as a panacea for all world problems, it nevertheless has some features that truly “smell of teen spirit” — decentralization, democratization, distributed governance and anti-authority. More importantly, the movement of these ‘blocks’ of digital value can carry a vote, a governance layer giving currency the power of consensus. They can integrate smart contracts that determine a transaction of value dependent on third party values. Finally, they can move any kind of value — both financial and nonfinancial — digitally, at a fraction of the cost of existing legacy systems with instantaneous efficiency. Blockchain is promising truly ground breaking evolutions in Humtech, Faithtech, Gendertech, Edutech and many transformative solutions. These articulate through cryptocurrencies which are values based — Women’s Coin, City Coin, EduCoins, Islamic Coin, Leadership Coin, Water Coins, Care Givers Coins, Fashion Coins, Enviro Coins … contributing to a family of United Nation’s 17 SDG Coins (Sustainable Development Goals) representing us all.
Let’s imagine a world where we all hold multiple coins representing the rainbow of our values and the degree with which we align with different communities.
The importance is reflected on how ready we are to exchange our coins for products and services. Whilst the financial value within the SDG family of coins are the same, the non-financial tokens of value are different. The latter is a microshare of provenance of ourselves, products, organisations, projects and processes — which can be earned, exchanged and spent dependent on the degree to which we fulfil the values we ascribe to. In future, the exchange rate between families of coins determines the veracity, passion and demand for those beliefs benchmarked against each other. After all, what is the use of holding an ISIS Coin if it’s unaccepted in most retail outlets, but equally minority rights are safeguarded as they can champion their own values and spend it within their own communities irrespective of adoption by others. Evolutionary market forces determine what values survive, what grows, and which values becomes extinct over time.
The reliance is not on fickle regulations, untrusted judiciary, size of our armies, interpretations, aggression or force, votes, politics, economic strength, or subterfuge. The dependence is entirely on our values, and the belief that positive attributes will rise naturally to the fore and less mainstreamed values will find their natural equilibrium in the grander schema.
Bad people can do good, good people can do bad, nevertheless all our values need to be recognised, transacted and tested.
We all know the currency of financial value, but what is the currency of non-financial value? At last, we have a means to capture that, and to articulate intangible values as robustly as we have learnt to do with hard assets, in order to build a better world but based on reliable and time served systems.
2. Historical Antecedents
Back in 2008 either one person or a group of people operating under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto released a financial token called the Bitcoin. It was a repartee to the invading territorial gathering of power by governments who increasingly want to introduce intrusive regulatory frameworks as part of check and balances to protect citizens, but equally offer a stealth growth of privacy hacks. Banks rode on the back of this wave to create a strangle hold on financial transactions that demanded higher fees as Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and other regulatory frameworks were introduced by SEC (USA) and FCA (UK) amongst others. Bitcoin thus represented an anti-authority, anti ‘The Man’, movement using decentralized and distributed models of information control with a strong democratisation agenda.
The anonymous feature of transactions also led to widespread use for illegal uses along the Silk Road including drugs, arms and now ransomware. Naturally the sex industry picked it up and we already have a variety of entertaining titles like Tit Coin, TittieCoin and even an Anal Coin providing hidden purchasing to everyday man who doesn’t have a Swiss Bank account, Cayman Island or BVR access. BitCoin now has a market capitalization of c. US$ 53 billion, rising upwards rapidly, and is seemingly unstoppable by governments or banking who have moved into regulatory or ‘if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them’ mode.
Soon people started to look past bitcoin and to examine the technology behind it — blockchain. The underlying feature set of one of the main accepted digital assets called Ethereum speaks volumes. Basically there are 4 layers.
- Data layer — the asset being transacted
- Protocol layer — the means of digital negotiation
- Smart contract — a codified ‘if this then do that’ rule set
- Governance layer — the 51% holders of the token can vote where to go next
As the transactions can be immutably recorded in a public ledger it implies transparency. You cannot see who sent the money/asset, nor who received it, but you can see a time-date-stamp and amount. This has led to a raft of permission-less and permissioned Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) type applications. The key enablers of blockchain are:
- TRANSACT: Enable to transact financial and non-financial assets digitally, efficiently and without a central authority
- PROVENANCE: Enable to track and record provenance of people, organisations, products, projects and processes immutably
- VOICE: Enable to empower and give voice to individuals with a vote, a microshare, and be part of the governance and future benefits
The uses for blockchain can be mapped, as ever, to what kind of person you are — and all bring value to the debate
a) The Pragmatist (faster and cheaper): Ask any expert what the revolution will bring, and they inevitably point to the social space, immediately followed by a “however, here in banking” statement. Although the world is not screaming out for ‘faster and cheaper’ … banking, invoices, logistics, car purchasing, etc … the fact is that the movement of hard assets are much easier to transact than soft assets. The former applications are centred around greater efficiency to existing markets and whilst interesting are rarely ground-breaking. Nevertheless, they will leading to incremental sector progress and are most likely to last past the era of blockchain hype and noise.
The madness and promise that blockchain represents is often likened to the early days of the internet when it took time for the bubble to burst and adoption of real uses. The internet is based on a universally adopted single TCP/IP communications protocol that allows for interoptability of all things based on it, from the world wide web, to data transfer, to communications. Sadly there is not one blockchain but a multitude of formats and standards (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Hyperledger, Interledger, Skyledger, etc) and even the two most widely adopted blockchains have split in the last 12 months. Ethereum is now ETH and ETC (Classic, 30th July 2016), and BitCoin now comes in two flavours — BTC and BTC Cash (1st August 2017). This makes scaling and mass adoption very difficult as the sector is in a period of infancy. Couple this with a relatively immature and inexperienced set of actors adds to the unpredictability. Regulators are behind the curve with SEC (USA) only now having made a statement on 25th July 2017, and FCA (UK) no where near yet — even exchanges aren’t regulated for Anti-Money-Laundering (AML) until 2018. Having said this, just as with the early days of any tech driven transformation like mobile phones, video players, etc we will eventually settle with more stable platform, agreed protocols, and a regulatory framework. Blockchain is here to stay, so let’s now settle down and focus on how to use it.
This heavy mix of people, technology, vision and perhaps above all hope, has created some truly novel secondary instruments.
o The Initial Coin Offering (The ICO) — Not IPO (Initial Public Offering), but a corollary which has already surpassed any previous crowd funding financing initiatives. Although some 70–80% of these are dubious in nature with no real substance, the instrument itself is undeniably brilliant raising US$ 500 million in just 3 of the ICO’s in June 2017, some completing in 30 minutes when they expected 6 weeks.
o The Distributed Autonomous Organisation (The DAO) — no board, no directors, no company, no staff, no building but using the Smart Contract to manage decisions and investments of funds raised. Although the first application of this in May 2016 was a disaster, when 3 months later half of the US$ 150m proceeds being legitimately ‘stolen’ due to a code defect, nevertheless the concept of having a virtual organisation with governance intrinsic to the fabric is truly a breath of fresh air.
o The Citizen Ownership (The Fork) — the Personal Data movement describes the powers that owning your own data can bring without intervening governance being required to speak for us. Brexit (UK), Trump (USA), Five Star (Italy), etc are all signs of a disenchanted world where people power determines the direction of much larger institutions. At a community level it’s the democratization that can abruptly fork directions of travel and lead to polarisation. At an individual level, you can decide who you share you data with, and for how much and to what extent.
o The Non-Financial Token (The Microshare) — As cryptocurrency is to the tangible financial value, the microshare is to intangible non-financial value. This token represents the digitisation of non-financial value, the turning of sentiment into financial value, and can be undertaken using Fast Data. You can transact love, goodness, health and other soft assets using blockchain like any other hard asset. It represents, of course, a radical departure from what we now understand by value, and is a glide path to transacting Total Value, not just financial.
3. Transacting Goodness as Instruments of Change
To create an artefact of a new world order needs a scalable and sustainable Circular Economy that transacts these new instruments seamlessly whether they are based in Fintech, HumTech, SocialTech, GenderTech, FaithTech … or any other solution. Envisage a world where you are born automatically registering your DNA on a blockchain which becomes your Digital ID whether banked or unbanked. You then use your ID to buy things, build trust, make retail choices, vote, have a voice … all operating within their own nested blockchains. You can volunteer and get credited with social coins, go to Starbucks and pay for your US$ 10 drink with US$ 8 cash and US$ 2 social credit. Go down Google Street and make retail outlet choices dependent on the ethical practices of the organisation (Walmart .v. Little House on the Prairie grocer); or products dependent on the slavery conditions of supply (sweat shop with slavery conditions or happy children milking happy cows in a happy field). You can pay and be paid in the currencies you have aligned to the values you believe in. Our values will represent the ultimate currency of non-financial value which we can trade with and utilise as an instrument of power just as money has done for hundreds of years.
Through blockchain goodness can be transacted, and ‘cryptocurrencies with values’ are the instrument of change. Our strength will be based on communities of shares values which sometimes be bordered by our patriotism (eg. FIAT currencies issued by a country), or be borderless in an increasingly blended society whilst still giving respect to minority voices who do not share our values. We all have multiple values and so hold multiple coins — Women’s Coin, Edu Coin, City Coin, Islam Coin, Leadership Coin … paying with one or another is promulgating our values and allegiances whilst acknowledging the debt. Our alignment will become a currency of its own, a microshare (token) of ourselves, which may have no financial benefit but carry the same gravitas and weight. One day, those microshares may even be interchangeable for regular FIAT currencies with their own exchange rates. Brands can reward in microshares, and part pay in Coco Cola Coin to their suppliers to ensure their values extend beyond their organisation. Families of values, such as the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goas, can have branded currencies which are entirely interchangeable in terms of financial value but differ in their terms of their impact targets. Perhaps more importantly, impact and financing of them can be inter-linked to ensure the former is a condition of the latter.
This acknowledging, accepting, rewarding and trading in a values based society is key to shift our paradigms from a financial footing to a more balanced approach. The greater the generosity of enlightenment from sharing our values with each other, giving insight into each other’s alignment, the less likely it is to rage against each other. We do not want to eradicate the governance systems and financial structures upon which our world is built, but want to turn these swords that control all around us into ploughshares that do good for mankind.
“He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” — [Isaiah 2:4]
The concept of a ‘microshare’, a token of non-financial value, has wide reaching implications. It can be a microshare of ourselves, our Personal Value, that we are dealing with and transacting with others; perhaps someone impacted meaningfully in our lives and we wish to recognise it in the future. It can be a microshare of a community of practice or belief, playing our part with votes in the larger entity who share our values. We can have a microshare of an organisation, rewarded for volunteering for projects attributed or aligned to that organisation, or for even being a customer like a Loyalty Card. It is empowering the single voice to have collective strength across our locality, our cities, our regions, our countries and our continents. It is rewarding each other for being good, and being able to spend that goodness for ourselves or for others aligned to our views. It is exporting our values to others and allowing them to face up to the values we share. Together, it gives us collective bargaining, as any large financial institution would have. A seat at the top table for us individually.
4. Transition Not Dismantling
Why blockchain appears to have gained traction is the relative ease with which it uses existing infrastructures and can co-exist alongside legacy systems. Not all would agree with this approach. Social Innovators are usually left wing radicals who believe in dismantling the system often in the most disruptive way possible, tearing down structures seeing little benefit in supporting ‘Last Thursday’ ideologies. Humanitarians, however, are right wing conservatives who want to leave the smallest possible footprint due to their interventions, operate ‘hic-et-nunc’ style and are resigned to repeat the same the following year. The latter may well be the destination glide path for such solutions, ie. to build on existing systems as a layer on top. They use existing government legislative frameworks, conform to regulatory controls, and perhaps at best push the envelope at the margins to begin with. Like Uber, you can push against the system but the powers of SEC are all encompassing, regulators have international reach, and not to be toyed with. In contrast, one should not underestimate the resolve of the blockchain enthusiast to circumnavigate the system as the de-establishment rhetoric is strong and persuasive in the current climate where even the World Economic Forum’s Davos is now considered merely an extension of corporate reach.
Structures that can manage these transitions are invariably foundations, such as the Ethereum Foundation, that curate the birth of such ideologies. Almost all substantive cryptocurrencies have copied this format. The latest — the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance (CCEG), is a not-for-profit think tank that is issuing the Seratio token compliant to UK regulatory frameworks. The unique feature of the Seratio token is the transactional ability to capture the financial assets, microshares and provenance of involving people, products, processes, projects and organisations. It is being effectively marketed as the ‘Ethereum UK’ adhering to best practice treasury management to ensure random Quantitative Easing does not dilute the offering. Being launched into the market in September 2017, alongside a large number of inter-optable prodigy currencies, together they form a circular economy eco-system, with each coin representing a vibrant, transactional, cohesive group that articulate their values through their own currency.
Over the first 36 months CCEG effectively writes itself out of the picture by removing any dependencies on itself during a handover to a DAO. The new body will take on the role of a Card Scheme (UK) or Card Association (USA) — like MasterCard, Visa, Amex, Diners, etc guaranteeing settlement irrespective of what cryptocurrency is being traded but this time focused solely on Cryptocurrencies with Values. Remarkably, none of the existing cryptocurrencies have this interchange feature and have no ‘Assured-Coin’ guaranteed settlement branding. At present you simply cannot take a Vegan Coin and buy stuff from someone who retails using Solar Coin. Although one imagines the values are not too dissimilar, this lack of infrastructure is currently holding back momentum of blockchain in one place as opposed to being dissipated across a series of offerings. Exactly the same, but perhaps less so, goes for non-financial blockchain applications as standardisation is far from mature. The latter can communicate with each other via API’s (application protocol interfaces), but cryptocurrencies cannot unless they adhere to the same protocols.
I think by 2030, when the UN SDG targets are set to be achieved, blockchain will be as common as the internet is today.
That is my hope, it is my ambition, but above all, it is my greatest wish that it leads to a more transparent and harmonious world.
More transparent and harmonious world is awaiting us
There is only one thing that the world has in common outside the essentials of food, water, air and heat. We do not agree on values, what is love, or music. Even our attitude towards spirituality, religion, has historically been both unifying and divisive. It is our intangible values that sometimes escalate to wars and killing our fellow man. Sadly, however, tangible assets including money is the only things that is used universally, accepted, and agreed whether in New York or Shanghai, in the middle of the Gobi desert or dealing with your neighbour. We all understand the value of assets, benchmark ourselves and other things with it, and have a sophisticated ways to trade on items based on financial value whether through bartering or using tokens of currency. So when remodelling our interactions and visioning the new world order, why not start with something we can all agree on, and build up from there?
We can see the rolling of eyes and shaking of heads; a new vision of the world built on the worst possible instrument of materiality and lowest common denominator of mankind? The very thing that is blamed daily for the ruin of the world. Money. Representing greed, hedonism, selfish and self-centric behaviours that are universally considered vile and demonised in the press. Hardly in line with what society needs to promote – love, happiness, kindness and transparency. The idea of money to unify the world seems ridiculous and out of step with the positive direction we are heading. But what if money, the universally accepted mediator across mankind, can be injected with values that can be exchanged just as easily as currency? A world where hard tangible financial value and soft non-financial value are interchanged seamlessly and a world build capturing all values inherent within society wherever it may lie or extreme it may be. A circular economy trading value built on our values.
So how can money be injected with values? It already does. Would you accept $5000 for your shirt if it’s paid in KKK Coins? It may offend your values, or you simply think that since you do not associate with the Klu Klux Klan where could you spend the currency? Currency carries both a financial value and represents values attributed towards a community, a set of beliefs, or alignment of values. Perhaps you can spend it with those who share similar values, who possess Trump Coins. What it does is to create a circular economy based on total value, both financial and non-financial value, and the exchange rate or desirability will be dependent on the demand that a vibrant, transactional and cohesive community creates. Fair or not, abhorrent or not, giving voice to those whose values are repulsive to the rest, a new system of currency that encapsulated all our values is equitable and transparent. We will fight in the exchanges, not in the streets, and we give value to all mankind not artificially censor those who we prefer to supress however unpalatable this may seem. It is democracy built on a common fiscal platform following thousands of years of maturation.
The solution is at the centre of the burgeoning 4th Industrial Revolution where Fintech meets Socialtech. The technology is called ‘Blockchain’ and touted as a panacea for all world problems, it nevertheless has some features that truly “smell of teen spirit” – decentralization, democratization, distributed governance and anti-authority. More importantly, the movement of these ‘blocks’ of digital value can carry a vote, a governance layer giving currency the power of consensus. They can integrate smart contracts that determine a transaction of value dependent on third party values. Finally, they can move any kind of value – both financial and nonfinancial – digitally, at a fraction of the cost of existing legacy systems with instantaneous efficiency. Blockchain is promising truly ground breaking evolutions in Humtech, Faithtech, Gendertech, Edutech and many transformative solutions. These articulate through cryptocurrencies which are values based – Women’s Coin, City Coin, EduCoins, Islamic Coin, Leadership Coin, Water Coins, Care Givers Coins, Fashion Coins, EnviroCoins … all contributing to a family of United Nation’s 17 SDG Coins (Sustainable Development Goals) representing us all.
So let’s imagine a world where we all hold multiple coins representing the rainbow of our values and the degree with which we align with different communities. The importance is reflected on how ready we are to exchange our coins for products and services. Whilst the financial value within the SDG family of coins are the same, the non-financial tokens of value are different. The latter is a microshare of provenance of ourselves, products, organisations, projects and processes – which can be earned, exchanged and spent dependent on the degree to which we fulfil the values we ascribe to. In future, the exchange rate between families of coins determines the veracity, passion and demand for those beliefs benchmarked against each other. Afterall, what is the use of holding an ISIS Coin if it’s unaccepted in most retail outlets, but equally minority rights are safeguarded as they can champion their own values and spend it within their own communities irrespective of adoption by others. Evolutionary market forces determine what values survive, what grows, and which values becomes extinct over time.
The reliance is not on fickle regulations, untrusted judiciary, size of our armies, interpretations, aggression or force, votes, politics, economic strength, or subterfuge. The dependence is entirely on our values, and the belief that positive attributes will rise naturally to the fore and less mainstreamed values will find their natural equilibrium in the grander schema. Bad people can do good, good people can do bad, nevertheless all our values need to be recognised, transacted and tested. We all know the currency of financial value, but what is the currency of non-financial value? At last, we have a means to capture that, and to articulate intangible values as robustly as we have learnt to do with hard assets, in order to build a better world but based on reliable and time served systems.
In June 2017, the sustainability label provider, UTZ announced a merger with the Rainforest Alliance to issue a single sustainability certification label by 2019. The news was welcomed by stakeholders across the supply chain, including farmers and retailers. For example, Roberto Vélez, CEO of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, noted that:
“It should bring great benefits to them, such as being audited against one standard instead of two, thereby making major savings on auditing costs…This should allow coffee growers to invest more efficiently in sustainability and increase their income, hence contributing to their economic sustainability.”
UTZ which had income of just over €19m in 2016, is a program and label for sustainable farming. It provides sustainability certification (for farmers, products and companies), impact measurement, traceability along the supply chain, and training. The Rainforest Alliance is a global nonprofit that works with a range of stakeholders (e.g. large multinational corporations, small, community-based cooperatives, and individuals), whose livelihoods depend on the land, helping them transform the way they grow food, harvest wood and host travelers. The two organisations reportedly certify around 180,000 cocoa, coffee and tea farmers globally. However, their efforts benefits millions.
This merger continues interesting trends and shifts in the sustainability certification field. For example, Fairtrade International another global sustainability certification provider, has shifted from certification of the end product, to focus on developing partnerships along the supply chain. Similarly, another organisation, SusConnect is also seeking to deliver value along the supply chain.
These shifts and trends in the market are as a result of various factors. While there is a growing market for products certified by major sustainability initiatives (e.g. Fairtrade International, the Forest Stewardship Council, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), much of the switch to standard-compliant and certified production is about risk management and brand protection, rather than consumer marketing.
Indeed, within recent years, price premiums have been declining across certified markets. I have written previously about the need for the double bottom line of environmental and economic sustainability. It is easier to do business where there are economies of scale (e.g. in larger, more export oriented economies) that can offer better infrastructure and governance. One of the few exceptions to this rule of economies of scale is cocoa, where certified production is concentrated in less-developed economies (e.g. the Ivory Coast and Ghana), mainly because Africa accounts for around 70 – 75% of global cocoa production.
Not withstanding these issues, there is growth potential in the market through for example, higher productivity, higher-quality products, secure trading relationships and technical support. However, it is likely that there will be further mergers and consolidation, as strategic partnerships are forged to most effectively realise this potential. Blockchain technology could play a key role in the facilitation of these partnerships, as well as in the transfer of the sustainability labels and certificates.
The case of the digitally poor and how Blockchain can help
Our first Blockchain meeting took place on Friday May 5 at the Innovation Centre. It went well as we were buzzing with ideas and ways in which Blockchain can help across all aspects of human life. Of course a cursory look at the many twitter sites and the growing number of websites dedicated to Blockchain show that the main interest is still within the Fintech word.The legacy of the cryptocurrency is still strong and economically a great disruptive force. Yet, as I argued in the Blockchain Educational Passport: Decentralised Learning Ledger, the 4th Industrial Revolution is not about money, but about people, and about procuring knowledge.
In this post I would like to draw the attention to and start a conversation about the ‘digitally poor’. In doing this, I will define poverty along the lines of the capability approach and the human development paradigm, as a deprivation of capabilities, that is, opportunities to lead a life each has reason to value. Within this definition of poverty, I argue that the ‘digitally poor’ are going to be those who have no means to show what they know, what they can do, and who they are. The digitally poor are the known unknowns and in a world that is becoming more and more connected and they are islands of disconnection, numbers in statistics at best, or invisible at worst. The post is a starting point and more, I hope, will follow.
Case 1: Ann’s story
Almost 20 years ago I was working as a Learning Teaching Assistant in a secondary school supporting the inclusion of young people with disabilities and learning difficulties. Ann was a 13 years old girl certified as having dispraxia, dislexia, discalculia and, fundamentally, ‘dis’-functional at many levels of basic skills. Yet, Ann could tell my state of mind as soon as I enter the room. She could tune in and empathise at a deep level with the people around her. She was, as far as the school was concerned, a ‘good girl, who tried hard’ but clearly had limited success. In Math, for example, she was still asked to add and subtract to 100. Divisions and multiplications were deemed too hard and nobody mentioned any of the other key mathematical skills a Year 9 should have had. All her school life, she was kept behind without a chance to move forward.
Yet, one morning at one of our weekly meetings we found out that during the previous few weeks Ann had been looking after her mother who had been lying in a dark room and living with depression. Of course, she had also been looking after her younger sister, and the house. She cooked, cleaned, did the shopping, paid the bills, and still came to school to be our ‘good girl’. When I pointed out that in order to do all such things she needed to be able to use math, at least at an intuitive level, and that we could have done something to take this into account, I was told that … well, no, it was not what schools do. Schools are bound to label our children for how well they pass the academic testing. For how well they fit artificially drawn boundaries in our curriculum. Because there was no other way to show what Ann could do, we could not measure her real value as a human being. We were happy to label her as dis-functional, morally inclined to admit that she was kind and caring, but otherwise unwilling to testify her abilities.
Ann is by no means the only child or adult with learning difficulties or disabilities who suffers the injustice of being ‘poor’.
Case 2: Islands in the desert
We have left Beirut and we are steadily climbing the Mount Lebanon Ridge heading toward Hermel at the farthest North point of the Bekaa Valley and less than 30 minutes drive to the Syrian border on the road to Homs. The furthest North you drive the least luscious and fertile the valley becomes until the land between Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon mountain range is a semi-arid stone landscape.
Yet, among the stones, there is life. I do not refer to plants, insects and other animals. I refer here to human life. Scattered across the Bekaa all the way from Baalbek to the Northern borders, along the main route to Syria, or tucked away on the limits of the horizons are the settlements of Syrian refugees.
Lebanon has more than 1 million Syrian refugees and by no means are they all settled in the Bekaa Valley. Those who are might not be the best educated, or the ones who had the means to start a new life. They are those who live out of UNHCR’s support mechanisms and who compete for work with the Lebanese in this harsh and unforgiving land. Some might have left with papers showing who they are and what they can do. Others might have left their homes with nothing but the bare necessities. Each one of them has something to give, but they are doubly poor. They are deprived of their homes, money, family, old connections, dignity and above all identity. Uncharted and unknown, they, like many others across the world, inhabit an alternative map of human geography. By all means, they are islands in the desert.
Case 3: More than schooling
Amidst such gloom, there is also hope and education is the key to bringing about change and human development. An example of this is the work carried out by the Ana-Aqra Association. A ‘non-profit, non-sectarian, non-political association founded in 1994 and officially established in 1998’ Ana-Aqra (I read) runs a number of programmes to enable disadvantaged children to thrive and flourish.
One of such programmes is the one I visited in Baalbek, ‘The Children’s Learning Center (CLC) – Al-Madad Foundation‘ which is one of the many initiatives supporting Syrian refugee children. Hosted in old traditional Lebanese house, the Association and the teachers working for them create an environment in which the child is at the centre of learning. For a few hours a day, each child is a person. Not a statistic, not an island, but a human being whose rights to play, to be safe, to be able to read, and to be healthy are enshrined and signed with the colourful prints of the children’s hands.
Yet, because they are refugees, they exist only within the safe boundaries of the school. They are known to the few and ignored by the many. Most importantly, they will be the next digitally poor. In years to come, if we do not develop a system to show what they have learned, they will not exist, unable to prove what they have learned to be and deprived of the opportunities to become.
The Blockchain Educational Passport: adding value to our learning
The ones above are just three cases in which a Blockchain Educational Passport can help. I do not go into the details of how Blockchain can work as part of the more comprehensive CCEG Blockchain UN Lab portfolio. This can be found in the Whitepaper 5.0. The point here is to put forward a draft framework for capturing the ‘combined value creation’ as evidence of impact of learning within a knowledge procurement framework.
The figure below shows an initial blueprint combining both the DLL framework and a more traditional procurement cycle framework. While the former focuses on capturing and making visible the intangible nature of both learning and its impact, the latter makes use of available accountability systems related to the procurement of tangible assets. The key innovative approach is to use Blockchhain to map, track and account for all transactions and produce personalised impact ledgers, or Educational Passports, for both the individuals and the organisations involved in the process.
One of the key features of the iDLL (Integrated Decentralised Learning Ledger) is its flexibility, adaptability and connectivity across different contexts and domains so as to build a more representative eco-systemic view of value creation and impact.
For example, in the case of Ann, it could be possible to make use of a number of already existing documents assessing her academic value (grades, tests, progress reports, Individual Educational Plan) but also devise indicators for measuring social value (in her case her caring responsibilities). In this way, Ann will not be assessed only in terms of academic value (AV) but also in terms of social value (SV). While AV and SV will be a unique measure of personal value (PV) belonging to Ann alone in the form of a personal wallet, part of either AV or PV can be shared with teachers or the school as they contributed to, or not, to Ann’s PV or part of. The same process can be applied to all students and teachers in the school to arrive to a combined organisational value (OV) measure not dissimilar from the already existing S/E ratio. Blockchain will provide the evidence of transactions (both belonging to individuals and to the school) to be kept in the public ledger.
The same approach can be used not only for schools, but also for any organisation (public or private), universities, businesses, NGOs or other associations. This approach allows for both a permanent record of value creation and for a record of its fluctuation over an individual’s or organisation’s lifetime. In the case of schools, the iDLL can make use of current accountability system (such as Ofsted evaluations), but, most importantly, add to them new criteria and indicators which are currently not applied since they do not fall within the tangible assets framework.
There are of course challenges. First of all is the challenge of identifying and agreeing on indicators of social value and of redefining accepted measures of tangible value. Second is the challenge of building the complex technological infrastructure able to support the increased number of transactions, and in some cases to bridge and combine different accountability systems. Third is the challenge of changing users’ mindset with regard to the usefulness of broadening the information base required to make the final evaluation.
All the above are points for future blogs and discussions. Yet, i believe that we need to start now to think about how we can ensure that there are not digitally poor individuals in generations to come. Devising a new system such as the DLL or iDLL is not just a technical challenge, but a moral priority which has the potential to address current inequity and unfairness.
Public engagement is important to universities, over 70 UK universities, including the University of Northampton, have signed the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement’s Manifesto which states:
“We believe that universities and research institutes have a major responsibility to contribute to society through their public engagement, and that they have much to gain in return.
We are committed to sharing our knowledge, resources and skills with the public, and to listening to and learning from the expertise and insight of the different communities with which we engage.
We are committed to developing our approach to managing, supporting and delivering public engagement for the benefit of staff, students and the public, and to sharing what we learn about effective practice.” NCCPE
The question is can universities and research institutes transparently demonstrate this engagement? It is not that these institutions are not doing public engagement activities and meeting these statements, they will be to a lesser or greater extent; but how to show it transparently.
Blockchain has the potential to help in this area. Seeing Blockchain as a distributed ledger raises the potential of making the data about impact on these activities more widely available, and protecting the sustainability of the data, because the ‘chain’ would be distributed across the machines so in effect backing it up.
As an example, outreach activities with schools and youth groups could be recorded; each one event as a transaction in the chain. Within each transaction information such as: a unique code for school/youth groups; ratio of females to males; a unique code for school/youth groups; ratio of females to males; ratio of female to male participants; number of participants; date; unique code for each facilitators; length of the activity in minutes and may be satisfaction scores.
The unique codes would not be made public available but may be coded, internal to the organisation, to indicate categories the participants or facilitators belong to (e.g. primary, secondary, staff or student facilitators). Internally organisations would know which partners they have worked with and perhaps allocated resources accordingly. The more interesting area is because this data would be, or can be, made publicly available per institute.This can be mined to look at impact externally and if several institutions used it, then impact more widely. This would enable tools from the growing area of network analysis to be applied to mine the data further (see the diagram below). It could also be linked, internal to the institution, to schemes such as for student facilitators, for example to some of the other Blockchain ideas such as ‘More than Grades’ or ‘Student Coin’
[this project is one of the feeder attribute components of the crade-to-grave blockchain for leather provenance]
We have no choice but to manage our natural resources in a sustainable way or they become depleted. We have no option but to be Eco-friendly or face consequences of global warming. We have no choice but to improve our economy or we risk opening doors to poverty. In everything we do, we have the next generation to consider.
Sustainable development is hard to define without appreciating the interdependence between economic growth, social protection, and environment impact.
South Africa’s sustainable development vision is charted in the National Framework for Sustainable Development (2008) as “South Africa seeks to be a sustainable, economically prosperous and self-reliant nation that safeguards its democracy by meeting the essential human needs of its people. Managing its scarce ecological resources responsibly for current and future generations, and by advancing efficient and effective incorporated planning and governance through national, regional and global collaboration”.
The vision above will serve as a guide in this study. Focusing mainly on the economic affluence of this sector and intense competitive challenges it faces at present.
The topic of research will look at issues of sustainable development of leather accessories and footwear. The core research question for this paper is: what are the challenges faced by South Africa in its strides to ensure growth, competitiveness and continuity in the leather accessories and footwear fashion sector? The paper seeks to gather valuable insights on key areas of focus and issues requiring attention in the short, medium and long term. Supported by practical and implementable action plans to build on existing best processes, programmes, and Initiatives.
The leather industry is one of the fast-growing commercial segments in the world. Studies suggest that world leather production is currently running at least between 21 and 22 billion square feet”. In South Africa, this sector accounts for over 22% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employ 23% of South Africa’s total employment. The success of this sectors is critical to our economy and a better life for all.
As lucrative as this sector is, it currently faces lots of challenges which threatens it’s economic competitiveness. The challenges are as follows:
- Ageing workforce and lack of transferable skills
- The sector is labour extensive and lacks innovation
- Lack of competencies particularly at the managerial level. Resulting in poor productivity
- Limited design capabilities result to low level of competitiveness
- China imports stifle local leather goods sales
One can tell the future of the organisation from the way it takes care of its employees and the environment. Sustainable and appropriate employment motivates staff and results in increased productivity. When it comes to sustainability, continuous improvement is critical. One can never say he/she have arrived. Sustainable solutions will be sought through investigating the following areas:
- Researching ways to strengthen local industry’s design capabilities to design for longevity.
- Investigating strategies for improving management skills and transparency in design and production to enhance
- Researching technologies that can create conditions for companies to produce footwear at reasonable prices for local markets with a view of improving local their cash to cash cycle time.
- Critically analyse the challenges of entering into subcontracting agreements abroad to fast track skills and technology.
- Developing train the trainer initiatives intending to preserve skills and ensure continuity in this sector
- Encouraging collaborations such mentor-mentee relationships as well as at peer level
- Researching creative ways for promoting the development of regional markets for finished leather products. To strengthen technical skills and production capacity which ensure continuity and serve as a buffer when the market expands.
Available policies supporting the country towards sustainable development
There are few enabling policies which can help in moving the sector towards being more competitive long-term. They are as follows:
- New Growth Path: setting out critical indicators for employment creation and growth and finds where viable changes in the structure are
- Ten-year innovation plan: showing that South Africa is well positioned to lead research on the continent regarding understanding and projecting variations to the physical system; the influence of these ups and downs; and easing to reducing their effects in the long run
- National Strategy for Sustainable Development and Action Plan
This paper leads to the conclusion that for Leather Accessories and Footwear sector to win this battle, players in this sector ought to form a close – knit team of like-minded individuals united by a common thirst: to help the transformation of our country. There is much to be done to improve the competitiveness of this sector. However, this cannot materialise when we work in silos it requires the collaboration of all stakeholders within the industry. On our own we are fantastic, together we are unstoppable!
[this project is one of the feeder attribute components of the crade-to-grave blockchain for leather provenance]
The need for management systems in industry
The current business environment is characterized by fast and unexpected changes as a result of increased population, economic growth and environmental impacts. This has resulted in a shift from companies focusing solely on production. The success of companies now depend heavily on its ability to provide skilled labour and product quality therefore the needs of the employees, the environment and customers have to be considered and measured to ensure legislative compliance, competitiveness, continuous improvement and sustainability
As companies grow larger or more complex, it becomes harder to maintain consistency in the operation of informal management systems therefore in order to achieve these objectives, it is important for organizations to adopt and formalise management systems that proactively address quality, safety and environmental issues in the workplace and surroundings
Implementing an OHS management system will proactively facilitate safe working condition; protect co-workers, their family members, employers, customers, suppliers, nearby communities and other members of the public who are impacted by the work place environment
The need for OHS management in Leather Production
Leather production entails converting raw hide, a highly putrescible material, into leather, a stable material, which can be used in the manufacture of a wide range of products. The process involves a sequence of complex chemical reactions and mechanical processes which are facilitated by workers and will therefore impact their OHS. At many stages of the process waste, chemicals and other materials are discharged into effluent streams and may also impact health of employees and surrounding communities
The Need for OHS management in the South African leather industry
South Africa has enabled itself to be a major contributor to the leather industry by establishing an integrated supply chain from importing of hides and skins, processing in tanneries and distributing of various products to customers in both domestic and export markets.
|Table 1 : Growth Potential for the South African Leather and Footwear industry|
|Investment Value ( billion ZAR)||2011||2016||Growth||Growth %|
|Capital investment ( 2016-2020)||R1.7bn|
|Capital investment (GBP)
One of the proposed investment opportunities comes in the form of a Leather Processing Hub that will be situated in KwaZulu Natal (KZN) South Africa. KZN houses one of the largest shoe manufacturing companies in South Africa called Dick-Whittington Shoes. KZN accounts for 70% of footwear production in South Africa and 40 % comprises of leather upper
The proposed layout encompasses integrating multiple leather processing units, outlets and leather auxiliary factories in one location. Highlights include a new effluent treatment plant, training facilities, facilities for shoes, garment and, furniture and ample parking space.
Advantages of The KZN Leather Hub include:
- Easy access to leather raw materials as KZN has the largest number of cattle
- Tanneries never retain stock due to high demand
- Direct contact with leather producers
- Reduced freight costs, customs, clearing and forwarding costs
Sunderland’s tannery is seen as a major contributor and stakeholder to the development of the hub which will involve interaction with stakeholders, community as well as creation of employment. More employment encompasses greater risk with regards to ensuring a safe and healthy workplace.
This, together with the existing demand for leather regarding the domestic, import and export market highlights the opportunity and need for integrating an OHS management system in South African tanneries.
The objectives will be to investigate current OHS management practices at Sunderland’s tannery , compare and contrast OHS management systems across South African tanneries , determine the possibility to benchmark OHS management practices across South African tanneries and finally establish and recommend best suitable method for integrating OHS management across South African tanneries.
This will be carried out using qualitative analysis and guidance from ISO 18001 across different tanneries in South Africa.
[this project is one of the feeder attribute components of the crade-to-grave blockchain for leather provenance]
Proper waste management is an integral part of a successful economy. An average person generates about 2.6 pounds of waste daily (Loki, 2016). In 2012, world’s urban centres were producing “1.3 billion tonnes of solid waste per year” (Hoornweg and Bhada-Tata, 2012). This figure is projected to “increase to 2.2 billion tonnes by year 2025” (Hoornweg and Bhada-Tata, 2012). Based on the projected increase in global waste generation, it can be concluded that the demand for efficient waste disposal is increasing. In order to deal with this raising demand, it is important to consider innovative ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle human waste. Improper waste disposal has potential to contaminate water sources, pollute air, and increase health risks in local population (Shah, 2007).
Based on the initial research conducted using The University of Northampton Nelson search engine, it appears that there is a limited amount of information on the number of recycling programs in leather industry. According to the gathered information, it seems that recycling in the leather industry is mostly limited to the shoe sector. Shoe manufacturers, such as Nike, encourage their consumers to send them back any old or defective shoes to be sorted and recycled in their factories (Lee and Rahimifard, 2012).
From the initial online research it appears that there is an increasing trend for the use of recycled materials. For example, several companies in different parts of the world are manufacturing leather goods from the recycled leather material. According to the initial research using Nelson engine, it can be concluded that some of the companies in the leather recycling market, such as Remade USA, reuse old leather pieces to make smaller leather items. Others compost leather fibres from the old material and, after combining those with additives, produce new synthetic leather products. A few companies such as Ecodomo and Looptworks are going a step further by producing innovative products from the composted leather, such as blended fabrics and tiles.
This project will attempt to address the lack of leather recycling initiatives in the industry and provide recommendations based on the collected data.
Aims and Objectives
Objective 1: Determine the post-consumer leather waste disposal trends
Aim 1: Analysis of historical and current leather waste disposal trends
Aim 2: Through upcycling manufacturers’ interviews identify the non-financial value of the leather recycling
Aim 3: Through literature review and interviews, identify strategies and challenges associated with reutilisation of recycled leather by manufacturers
Objective 2: Determine ways to increase post-consumer leather recycling
Aim 1: compare and contrast trends in plastics and paper industries to predict possible benefits/increase of leather recycling
Aim 2: conduct consumer questionnaire to determine the non-financial value of the leather recycling
Objective 3: Provide recommendations of potential ways and create a possible plan to effectively deal with post-consumer leather disposal
- Electronic sources for literature review
- U of N Nelson Search Engine
- Google Scholar
- University and Local Libraries
In this part of the project historical data will be collected and analyzed.
- Leather recycling industry interviews
Interviews of various up-cycling industry manufacturers will be conducted to determine the challenges they’re facing and the non-financial value behind their work.
- Leather consumer questionnaires
Consumer questionnaires will be conducted to identify the attitudes and perspectives of the consumers. The data will be analyzed to trends and used to create a potential recycling plan.
Through literature reviews, consumer questionnaires, and leather upcycling manufacturers’ interviews, the value of the leather recycling will be assessed. Attitudes of the consumers, challenges of the manufacturers, and the historical trends and comparisons will be taken into account to create a potential leather recycling plan.
HOORNWEG, D. and BHADA-TATA, P. (2012) ‘What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management’, Urban development series, pp. 20.
LOKI, R. (2016) ‘America is a wasteland: The U.S. produces a shocking amount of garbage’, [Online]. Available at: http://www.salon.com/2016/07/15/america_is_a_wasteland_the_u_s_produces_a_shocking_amount_of_garbage_partner/. [Accessed 24 February 2017]
LEE, M.J. and RAHIMIFARD, S. (2012) ‘An air-based automated material recycling system for postconsumer footwear products’, Elsevier, vol. 69, December, pp. 90-99.
SHAH, R. (2007) ‘Waste Statistics’, Workshop on Environmental Statistics, July, pp. 1-36.
Modern businesses place a high price on sustainable practices. Sustainability that covers all aspects and people involved has been a hard concept to define throughout history. These turbulent times of change are indicative of the necessity to adapt and change to a changing environment. With an appropriate definition, a benchmark can be set to identify challenges, goals, a strategy and a measure for success or failure. The concept of TBL aims to cover all the necessary spheres of sustainability. This includes social, environmental and economic sectors. True sustainability occurs through a synergistic relationship between these sectors. Similarly, CSR is referred to as business practices that benefit society, the environment and doesn’t impede financial growth. There is a growing level of adoption of CSR and TBL philosophies throughout businesses, this includes the leather industry.
The economic sector can be represented through the financial value of a company. This is tangible and easily measured. Environmental actions can also be quantified in terms of energy and water consumption, effluent discharge and carbon footprint to name a few. These are included in CSR policies and add to the social impact of the company. A lot of research has been done on CSR and the impact it has on financial performance. However, measuring the intangible value of socially sound practices in a comparable way proves to be challenging. This is due to the different ways of quantification and a large array of definitions. The social dimension includes the impacts of environmental practices and economic performance on social systems. This needs to be considered at regional, national and sometimes global level. Major companies publicise their CSR aspirations on their websites or as annual reports to show transparency in their operations and gain loyalty from stakeholders. Organisations are forced to adopt more transparency due to increasing pressure from stakeholders that demand socially and environmentally responsible practices. There is a need to quickly and easily associate a product with the conditions of manufacture, composition and social influence associated with it, ensuring the absence of animal abuse, modern slavery, safe chemicals etc.
There are several well-known initiatives within the leather industry that promote the concepts of TBL and CSR. These are all implemented to promote sustainability and a better image for the leather industry. The LWG’s environmental audit protocol promotes sustainable and responsible use of natural resources, human resources and waste management. The roadmap to zero’s ZDHC campaign, which aids in the construction of MRSL documents, further increases the industry’s careful environmental considerations as well as the safety of employees and consumers (LWG – leather working group). Large CSR campaigns and strategic planning is prevalent in many companies associated with the leather supply chain. These include tanneries like Bader leather (which is also LWG certified), and chemical supply companies such as Stahl. The problem arises once more as to how these detailed sustainability and CSR practices can be measured and compared as a way of benchmarking and marketing the industry as clean, safe and sustainable.
Provenance is defined in the Oxford dictionary as the beginning of something’s existence or something’s origin. The country of origin can often influence social perceptions toward a product. This fact also holds true for the conditions under which it was produced. The value of a product can be affected by customers’ association of quality or luxury with a specific country or city and be degraded through negative impressions. The association of a product with good practices can serve as an extra marketing incentive. How this impacts the community needs to be measured. In addition to this employee empowerment carries significant social value, particularly in South Africa. Comprehensive skills development initiatives such as the one from the FP&M SETA aims to uplift previously disadvantaged citizens. Trained staff will convey a positive message toward the community and add to the social value of a company. A potential way of calculating the effect of training and social impact in terms of job satisfaction is presented in.
Various implementations of metrics have been used to measure intangible value added components. Many of which are computer aided software capable of accessing various databases for information gathering. An increasingly open and accessible international trade market has increased the role of small suppliers to comply with international standards (e.g. labour laws and quality). Through measuring the provenance, social impact and process conditions and comparing the measurements the true impact of “good deeds” and ethics can be compared.
A method developed by Olinga Ta’eed trademarked as seratio (social earnings ratio) was established as an internationally recognised form of measuring social value after the founding of the CCEG in 2013. It measures the social impact of business through complex metrics, sentiment analysis and correlations with various applications. Companies are assessed and a total value is assigned according to its price earnings and profit earnings ratio. The empirical data obtained from this method allows for easy articulation of the CSR practices of a company.
The aim will be to:
Quantify CSR initiatives as a non-financial value which can be used to compare the effectiveness of different components on the leather supply chain. Evaluate the differences in intangible value between businesses in the supply chain and its impact in the industry. Ultimately establish how the total value, consisting of tangible financial and intangible non-financial value, is affected by CSR initiatives.
This will be done through considering various companies throughout the supply chain that will be mapped out prior to the commencement of the project.
Sentiment analysis and the establishment of a total blockchain of value will be the main means of comparison between different companies in the supply chain as well as the effectiveness of the strategies they employ